Can a small church be effective?  Can it transform its community?  How can a struggling church become a “transformational” small church?

Ed Stetzer, chief missiologist and researcher at Lifeway, is hosting a free webcast on the topic on Sept 7, from 10-4 Central.  If you can get to Nashville, it’s just $10.  If you can’t you can watch on free webcast.

And if you’re near Newport News, Virginia, you can watch the webcast and network with other local small churches.  It’s being hosted by Deer Park Baptist Church, 10:20am-5:15pm (eastern).  See the details at Netcasting:Ideas

In the current, Walter Kallestad (pastor of Community Church of Joy in Phoenix, Arizona) tells how he created, and then abandoned a showtime church.

When he started at CCCoJ, he and his staff looked to build a church “for people who don’t go to church” … people who didn’t want to give anything, but only to be entertained and inspired.

The only way to capture people’s attention is entertainment, I thought. If I want people to listen to my message, I’ve got to present it in a way that grabs their attention long enough for me to communicate the gospel.

Attendance skyrocketed.  Every “show” played to a packed house.  People coming to faith was not bad, but he wondered if it was good. They were packing the pews, but not transforming the community.

“I knew we weren’t developing disciples who were taking up their crosses to follow Jesus. We’d produced consumers—like Pac-Man, gobbling up religious experiences, navigating a maze but going nowhere in particular. Too many were observing the show but not meeting God.”

A heart attack on was a wakeup call.  He realized the bulk of the effort and offerings supported maintenance of the property and the programs, but the results were not producing empowered disciples.  “We were entertaining people as a substitute for leading them into the presence of God.”
With the board’s permission, he repented – a radical shift.  They fired the professional performers, and used volunteers with a heart for worship.  Sermons went from feel-good homilies to Bible teaching.  One early sermon was simply reading Paul’s sermon at Pentecost, with an altar call.

A third of the congregation left.

Those that stayed were equipped and empowered to go be the church in the marketplace where God had called them to serve. They began to minister to their community and gave them the tools they needed.

“What does it profit a man if he builds a great church but loses community?”